LeBron James against Kobe Bryant, the dream NBA Finals that's never become a reality.
Maybe this is the year.
James' Miami Heat are on top of the league and got even stronger this summer, but nobody loaded up like the Lakers, who acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
One team or the other has appeared in the last six NBA Finals. Now, with more help than either has ever had, James and Bryant both will face title expectations -- and a sense they're due for that long-awaited showdown with each other in June.
"If we see that matchup, Kobe vs. LeBron, I think it would break all the records," Lakers Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Magic Johnson said. "I think the viewership would be off the charts."
It's no guarantee, of course. The Oklahoma City Thunder might still be best in the West, making a James-Kevin Durant rematch in the finals just as likely as James-Bryant. Or maybe the Boston Celtics, who came so close to knocking out the Heat last year, can finish the job this time even after Ray Allen ditched them to join James on South Beach.
To read full story, breakout stories on Damian Lillard and Jimmer Fredette, as well as team-by-team predictions, visit the Standard-Examiner's epaper here.